Launching New MS Innovation Program for Northeastern
Client: Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business
Situation Analysis: The D’Amore-McKim School of Business was launching a new one year graduate business education model focused on Innovation that provided middle managers in technology, financial services, engineering and retail the knowledge required to innovate company processes and products and secure a seat at the leadership table.
The D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University decided to launch a new MS in Innovation program designed to incorporate the most relevant courses from the school’s former High Tech MBA program plus new courses that were created specifically for the middle manager focused on innovation. This every-other-Saturday, one-year program was a better alternative to traditional full-time MBA programs for those working full time.
D’Amore-McKim engaged Schneider Associates with a target of enrolling 20-30 students for the first semester. Not only was there a major time constraint to recruit the first cohort, but since the program was new, it lacked regional and national recognition and was competing in a market teeming with strong business school programs and world-class academic offerings.
Schneider Associates (SA) was retained to develop a launch campaign to introduce the MS in Innovation program, as well as increase brand awareness for the newly renamed D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Our goal was to communicate the importance of this degree program in advancing an individual’s business career, along with the message that employees could enroll while continuing to work full-time. The marketing campaign centered on the uniqueness of the program (the only one of its kind in the U.S.) plus Northeastern’s strong tradition of experiential learning.
Strategies and Execution:
The bedrock of the campaign was the idea that innovation and a business degree would not only propel one’s career in an organization, but establish a new direction within the company that fostered innovation. The goal was to reach individuals and companies/organizations, demonstrating the mutual benefits both would receive from enrolling in the program. D’Amore-McKim provided demographic and psychographic prospective student information. Prospects were: 1. Age 25 to 45; 2. Worked in middle management; 3. Employed at large companies or emerging innovative companies; 4. Worked in technology, financial services, engineering, retail or marketing; 5. Located within one hour’s drive of Boston; 6. Ambitious and leadership oriented; 7. Considered themselves innovators; 8. Wanted to develop better company processes and, 8. Aspired to having a voice in company decision making. While they were deemed “innovative,” they were not people who wanted to be entrepreneurs, preferring to work within a corporate structure instead.
The launch strategy capitalized on key moments in time and was enhanced by media partners that could reach these ambitious, 25 to 45 year-old career minded professionals living in and around Boston. The integrated launch campaign included paid, owned and earned media components and featured newsworthy announcements; multichannel advertising to drive leads; and a content marketing program to engage a wider audience, generate buzz and create a halo of excitement with consumers, media and influencers.
This coordinated marketing strategy resulted in a calendar of sequential opportunities for program marketing and promotion including: a media exclusive with The Boston Globe to announce the MS in Innovation degree, an announcement at the BostInno UpFront event, paid media through digital lead generation and radio spots to drive greater interest and traffic to a custom branded microsite, the launch of the Whiteboard Innovation Challenge at the State of Innovation event, and an experiential tour around Boston to promote the degree program and contest. The Whiteboard Innovation Challenge was a creative, big idea that communicated the “cool factor” of this unique degree program and engaged audiences interested in ideation and innovation including former Governor Deval Patrick and current Mayor Marty Walsh.
Prior to announcing the MS in Innovation program at BostInno UpFront, SA asked top innovation and technology reporter, Callum Borchers of The Boston Globeand BetaBoston, to break the story. SA’s detailed briefing led to Borchers expressing interest in speaking directly with prominent members of the school and the program founders and directors. Borchers sat down with D’Amore-McKim Dean Hugh Courtney and program co-directors Professor Marc Meyer and Professor Tucker Marion. The hour-long meeting resulted in an article on the front page of theGlobe’s Metro section, introducing the program to the greater Boston community.
After the story was broke and the MS in Innovation degree program launched, the activation of the Whiteboard Innovation Challenge van and D’Amore-McKim’s attendance and engagement at the BostInno events continued to generate interest from notable members of the media, including US News & World Report, The Boston Globe,BetaBoston, the Boston Business Journal and BostInno.
Events & Whiteboard Innovation Challenge:
SA and D’Amore-McKim chose to partner with BostInno, an online media outlet that is geared toward younger readers (BostInno and Streetwise Media describe themselves as “a digital media and events company that has taken the stodgy Boston news landscape by storm with entertaining, intelligent and provocative editorial coverage”). SA negotiated a sponsorship for the MS in Innovation program that included two key Boston area innovation events, the UpFront and State of Innovation that were heavily attended and reached the important 25 to 45 year old audience. To maximize attention at these events for the MS in Innovation and D’Amore-McKim School of Business, SA arranged speaking engagements for Assistant Dean Mario Maletta at the UpFront event, and Dean Hugh Courtney at the State of Innovation event.
The D’Amore-McKim School of Business formally introduced its new MS in Innovation graduate degree program through a video introduction at the BostInno UpFront featuring innovation Professor Tucker Marion, and an in-person discussion of the future of education by Professor Mario Maletta. The video was developed in collaboration with Long Haul Films and included a custom whiteboard drawing animation clip that was created with professional whiteboard artists to promote the program and tease the forthcoming Whiteboard Innovation Challenge. The MS in Innovation program was officially open for business to engage, activate and recruit Boston’s brightest minds and innovators across industries.
At the BostInno State of Innovation forum, D’Amore-McKim officially launched its Whiteboard Innovation Challenge, intended to engage top innovators, ideators and change agents around Boston and beyond in a contest to come up with the best innovative concepts to solve challenges created by the renowned innovation professors at the University. Our idea was to overlay the launch campaign with an experiential contest to extend it to wider audiences and build brand awareness for the school and the new degree program. The Challenge itself was dreamed up on our very own IdeaPaint wall here at Schneider Associates, and led to an incredible activation for D’Amore-McKim and the MS in Innovation.
Our launch of the program was notable in and of itself, attracting the attention not only of the hundreds of event attendees, but of Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Marty Walsh as well. Our representatives engaged with citizens and city influencers, introducing them to both the challenge and to the new offering by D’Amore-McKim.
For the continuation of the challenge, four unique questions were posed to contestants. A judging panel comprised of D’Amore-McKim innovation faculty picked a winner from each group of submissions. Winners received a SmartWatch and an invitation to dine with Dean Hugh Courtney and MS Innovation faculty at a local hotspot to discuss their ideas.
The Whiteboard Innovation Challenge questions included:
Question #1: How would you use technology to solve a problem you face every day?
Question #2: What’s your biggest transportation challenge and how would you solve it?
Question #3: What’s your innovative app idea?
Question #4: How would you use technology to innovate education?
By the completion of the Challenge, there were 136 total submissions to the four questions posed.
Paid Media & Digital Lead Generation:
Schneider Associates worked with its media buying partner to develop a radio advertising strategy to reach the 25 to 45 year-old professional working in the Boston area. We bought a mix of stations and used :30 and :60 second spots that enabled us to tell the story about why the MS in Innovation was a valuable degree program for today’s working professional. Messaging focused on the desire to bring new ideas to life within organizations and earn a seat at the leadership table. Radio drove significant traffic and program leads to a custom microsite over a 5-week period after the initial media announcement and BostInno UpFront Event.
Schneider Associates also leveraged digital content and branding through a paid blogging channel in theBostInno business news feed (delivered to readers within the flow of news content), and a leaderboard digital banner buy.
Print media included pop-up ad units in the center spread of the Boston Metro and tile ads on the newspaper front page.
Our digital lead generation program included several strategies:
- Brand impressions through digital banner ads targeted by job title, location, age and degree status
- Search marketing through paid keywords related to innovation and master’s programs
- Geofencing of selected large employers in Boston to deliver program impressions to employees fitting the profile for the program
- Follow-up email campaigns to all prospects who engaged in the advertising
The combination of traditional and digital media, timed to activate after the initial earned media coverage, drove an exceptionally high volume of leads for the program. SA offered to assist with lead nurturing and follow-up for the large number of inquiries, and developed informational follow up emails that were sent to all remaining leads. SA also made individual phone calls to more than 150 prospects to offer additional information about the program and gauge interest.
Schneider Associates identified during the discovery phase of the program building that D’Amore-McKim had an opportunity to use the MS in Innovation campaign as a springboard to gain followers on social channels and drive conversation and awareness. As a first step, SA launched Facebook and Twitter channels for the business school, and developed a content and influencer strategy. We then developed publishing calendars with evergreen content about the program as well as related news around business innovation and about developments at large corporations in the region.
During the campaign, our team provided guidance to the social media coordinators at D’Amore-McKim on the best ways to use hashtags, twitter streams and other content to be part of the organic conversation. During the Whiteboard Innovation Challenge, SA activated embedded street team members to capture photos and tweet about interactions with Boston residents. SA also engaged Pretty Instant to take professional photos with digital photo frames branded with D’Amore-McKim and Whiteboard Innovation Challenge graphics. The branded, high quality photos were sent to people instantly after being taken via email and text, creating an additional opt-in opportunity for program information, generating program leads and spreading awareness when participants posted their photos to their own social networks.
Schneider Associates also developed post campaign content related to all sponsored BostInno events and earned media coverage to extend the reach of the campaign through social channels.
Measurement and Results:
The launch campaign resulted in more than 325 program leads (there were dozens of direct inquiries that were fielded by the business school admissions staff as well). Inquiries that came through SA’s campaign channels included:
- 224 leads from the Microsite, Facebook application and lead generation program
- 38 from the Whiteboard Innovation Challenge
- 63 from the Pretty Instant opt-in
Media impressions totaled 19,677,959
At the close of the campaign, the social media reach on Facebook included:
- 168 content Likes
- 9 content comments
- 35 content shares
- 3,613 reach
- 1.8% page fan growth
Other social metrics included:
- 49,001 hashtag use: #NUinnovation
- 330 Facebook microsite referral traffic metrics
The launch campaign resulted in the admittance and enrollment of 22 students in D’Amore-McKim School of Business’ inaugural MS in Innovation program, meeting the benchmark outlined by the school for a successful launch. The campaign was recently lauded by representatives from the offices of Mayor Marty Walsh who are planning innovation related programming for the city and who viewed this program as “innovative.”
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